Ripe Art Gallery owner Cherie Via is not interested in any of the conventions mapped out by the art world. “I like doing things my own way. If you come to Ripe you’ll see immediately that the walls are yellow, the ceiling is black and you’ll be stepping on black Astroturf. I want the place to feel warm and welcoming. I want it to be fun, and I only want to show artwork that other galleries won’t. If I find a piece aesthetically pleasing and it’s something I think I can sell, then I’ll stand behind it.”
After eight years in the Long Island art business, amid a harsh recession where a host of galleries have failed, Via has managed to not only stay afloat but also grow with each consecutive year. Much of her success can be attributed to her keen aesthetic eye and her clarity of vision. “My aim is to show folk art and self-taught artists that are from Long Island. I think one of the main things I look for in an artist is their sense of humor. I’m also into colorful works and ideas that are thought provoking, that push people’s imaginations.”
This distinct vision wasn’t something that was immediate. Rather, it was built over time, and perhaps was a result of her alternative career path. With a background and degree in Music Education, Via taught for five years. Then one day she decided to quit and start anew. “I wasn’t happy, and knew that I wanted to do something else, something with art. Someone once told me that I had an eye for color, which led me to pursue a job at a couple of framing studios, where I learned a ton about the business.”
In 2004, Ripe Art Gallery was born. The business was originally conceived as a faux finish and paint design business offering framing services to clients, but that quickly developed into a full-on gallery. “I sort of just fell into all of this. I mean, my mother was an artist. But to be honest, I only started this gallery by showing my friends’ work, and that led to more artists contacting me, and that led to even more. Now I can’t keep up,” she laughs.
The Ripe Art Gallery hosts about one show a month, and in addition there are homegrown film festivals, live music, jewelry showcases and a variety of other events. “I’m open to whatever. If you have a good idea and it is art related, then let’s talk. I tell people my job is ‘herding cats.’ I’m just trying to keep these ‘cats’ in one place. It can be exhausting, and most Sundays I can’t get out of bed, but I love what I do,” she laughs. “So come down to our next show and see some art. We’ll be serving candy and soda, so I don’t have to worry about Johnny Law breathing down my neck.”
May 2012: LI’s “Zen Cubist” Gary Ivan
Ripe Art Gallery
67A Broadway, Greenlawn